After the death of John Macarthur in 1834, the first registered land title for the new Camden township was for the nominal sale by his sons, James and William, in May 1841 of 2.4 ha to the Bishop of Australia, Rev William Broughton, for the erection of a Church, a residence for a clergyman and a burial ground.
The colonial government contributed £1,000 towards this early ‘Church Act:’ building, the plans being drawn in 1837 by James Hume of Sydney for a ‘classical style’ building. However, his design was abandoned above the 1840 foundation courses in favour of the then contemporary ‘decorated gothic style’ design provided by John Cunningham, an English architect known to the family. The Colonial Architect, Mortimer Lewis, was appointed supervisor. The economic agricultural depression of the 1840’s set back construction, delaying consecration by Bishop Broughton to June 1849.
The now iconic local brick building comprises the western tower with needle spire 38.7m high, nave and chancel, extended in 1874 to the design of Gilbert Scott of London and supervised by prominent Sydney architect Edmund Blacket. The window stone tracery and the floor flagging were cut from a local quarry. The cusped hammerbeam roof trusses were cut from local ironbark trees.
The Church has many fine dedicated stained glass windows, those earlier are from England, and include two remaining of the original design; later windows are of local design. The prominent east window (Clayton and Bell, London) was installed in 1874 and depicts the Transfigured Christ framed by a Latin inscription ‘This is my Son—my Chosen—Listen to Him’.
The organ and choir gallery to the design of Blacket was built in 1861 by J. Le Fevre. The Organ made c. 1860 by Bates and Son in London is single manual with tracker action, seven ranks of pipes and was originally hand pumped. It is housed in a delightful gothic case having gabled towers with pinnacles and is the only Bates organ in NSW. The organ has been recently fully restored.
The Clock and Bells were dedicated in 1897 as a gift from Elizabeth Macarthur-Onslow. The chiming clock with three 1.8m dials and 1.5m long bed frame was made by Gillett and Johnston of London; originally hand wound but now automatically wound by electric motors.
The Peal of 8 bells, the largest weighing 710 kg was made by Mears and Stainbanks of London. The bells can be played by two hands pulling numbered ropes on an ‘Ellacombe’ frame.
In the west entry and in the building there are a number of wall plaques and smaller engraved labels attached to furnishings relating to persons and events.
In the Church
The church History Panel at the entry was given in 1952.
The Communion Rails were given in 1850 by Bishop W.G. Broughton.
The Communion Table and Reredos behind were presented by the parishioners in 1917 to mark 25 years of ministry by Rector Rev C.J. King.
The Panelling of wood on either side of the Reredos was given in 1970.
The two large wooden Chairs either side of the chancel were given in 1874.
The Prayer Desk was presented in 1905 by the ladies of the parish.
A Silver Communion Flagon was given in 1872 by the Rev H. Tingcombe on his leaving the parish.
The later Silver Communion Flagon and Goblets were given in 1974 in memory of the Cranfield family.
The Communion Set in a small oak travelling case, was used during World War 1 by Brigadier-General G.M. Macarthur-Onslow in Egypt and Gallipoli.
The Alms Dish in brass with silver eagle, sun and grapes decoration, was given for Anne Thompson born in 1840, for the 99th Anniversary of the laying of St John’s foundation stone.
The Processional Cross was given in 1930.
The Font to the design of Mortimer Lewis of local stone was made and presented c. 1850 by the stonemason, William Buchan.
The Lectern in the form of an eagle, carved from Burmese teak, was purchased in London in 1894 as a bequest.
The Holy Bible on the eagle lectern was given in 1969.
The elevated cedar Pulpit was given in 1858 as a bequest from a Dr Anderson.
In the Grounds
The Lych Gate and Picket Fence at the Menangle Road entry to the grounds was given in 1912 as a memorial to Mrs Elizabeth Macarthur-Onslow.
The Gates and Boundary Fencing of some 550 metres, were given in 1935 by Mrs Faithful Anderson.
The flight of Steps and iron Railings leading up from John Street were given in 1935 by General J.W. Macarthur-Onslow.
The electric Luminaire specially made of copper, was erected over the steps in 1935 as a memorial (now lost).
The Sundial originally made for Riley’s property at Glenmore in 1861 was purchased in 1922 by Brigadier-General G.M. Macarthur-Onslow and later donated to the Church in 1953, and fully restored in 1996.
Columbarium and Cemetery
The group of Columbarium walls includes a memorial garden dedicated in 1964. The historic Cemetery, now closed, dates from 1844. The location of the 900 grave sites and nearly 1900 interments is detailed in a 185 page book ‘If Gravestones Could Talk’ by J. Johnson. You can find out where people are buried here.
The Rectory and Coach House were built in 1859 by James and William Macarthur. The two storey Georgian Style Rectory has an attached single storey kitchen wing, and shuttered 12 pane sash windows and french doors; the roof is slate. A recent extension provides a large family room and the original east front verandah has been reinstated. The Rectory is a private residence and not open for inspection.
In 1906, the Camden Park Estate Pty Ltd, gave the Rectory and 2.4 ha of surrounding lands, now 0.9 ha, to the Church Property Trust. The 1 .1 ha grass slope between the Rectory and the Church was acquired in 1911 and was used as the Rector’s horse paddock.
St John's Anglican Church Precinct Conservation Management Plan Conservation Management Plan 2004 PDF (24MB) Conservation Management Plan Addendum 2010 Part 1 PDF (2MB) Conservation Management Plan Addendum 2010 Part 2 PDF (1MB)
Further Information on items of historical significance in the church: